Large altitudinal increase in tree root/shoot ratio in tropical mountain forests of Ecuador

2007 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Large altitudinal increase in tree root/shoot ratio in tropical mountain forests of Ecuador​
Leuschner, C.; Moser, G.; Bertsch, C.; Roederstein, M. & Hertel, D.​ (2007) 
Basic and Applied Ecology8(3) pp. 219​-230​.​ DOI: 

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Leuschner, Christoph; Moser, Gerald; Bertsch, Christian; Roederstein, Marina; Hertel, Dietrich
Tropical rain forests decrease in tree height and aboveground biomass (AGB) with increasing elevation. The causes of this phenomenon remain insufficiently understood despite a number of explanations proposed including direct or indirect effects of low temperature on carbon acquisition and carbon investment, adverse soil conditions and impaired nutrient supply. For analysing altitudinal patterns of aboveground/belowground carbon partitioning, we measured fine (<2mm in diameter) and coarse root (2-5mm) biomass and necromass and leaf area index (LAI), and estimated AGB, from stand structural parameters in five tropical mountain rain forests at 1050, 1540, 1890, 2380 and 3060 m along an altitudinal transect in the South Ecuadorian Andes. Average tree height and AGB were reduced to less than 50% between 1050 and 3060 m, LAI decreased from 5.1 to 2.9. The leaf area reduction must have resulted in a lowered canopy carbon gain and thus may partly explain the reduced tree growth in the high-elevation stands. In contrast, both fine and coarse root biomass significantly increased with elevation across this transect. The ratio of root biomass (fine and coarse) to AGB increased more than ten-fold from 0.04 at 1050 m to 0.43 at 3060 m. Under the assumption that fine root biomass does reflect root productivity, our data indicate a marked belowground shift in C allocation with increasing elevation. Possible explanations for this allocation shift are discussed including reduced N supply due to low temperatures, water logging or adverse soil chemical. conditions. We conclude that the fine root system and its activity may hold the key for understanding the impressive reduction in tree size along tropical mountain slopes in Ecuador. Analyses of fine root turnover and longevity in relation to environmental factors along altitudinal transects in tropical mountains are urgently needed. (C) 2006 Gesellschaft fur Okologie. Published by Elsevier GnnbH. All rights reserved.
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Elsevier Gmbh, Urban & Fischer Verlag
Basic and Applied Ecology 



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